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Pistols and Pollinators 2013 Interviews with Anna B. Sexton and poet Miriam Nash about P&P 2010

As Pistols & Pollinators celebrates it’s 2nd series of collaborations and the showing of the work @ The Albert, London – 23rd – 27th May 2013

Miriam & I were asked to share about our Collabor-ARTing experience… read the interview below – taken from the original & new Pistols and Pollinators website

Interview-with-artist-Anna-B. Sexton-and-poet-Miriam-Nash-previous-participants-in-2010s-Pistols and Pollinators

In 2010 artist Anna Sexton and poet Miriam Nash were collaborators in the first Pistols & Pollinators project. We caught up with them 3 years on, to find out about their experience with each other, and now that the dust has settled, what effect it had on their work.

What was it about each other initially that made you realise you were a good partnership?

M: Almost as soon as I met Anna I felt she was someone I could work with. I was excited by her work and ideas, and her clear way of communicating suited me. She was also very open to working across different platforms, which was important, as I knew I’d be away in Geneva for two months of our collaboration. And I had a hunch we’d have a lot of fun.

A: Miriam’s attitude on the 1st session plus my own vision for working in a real two way partnership ie: to get the best out of the process given the level of commitment required.

How did you decide on, and what was, your working method?

M: We put dates in the diary and agreed to meet up face to face while I was in London and via skype, email and our blog when I was in Geneva. The blog was a great way to get things started – like a shared scrapbook for ideas. In the beginning we spent a lot of time playing and getting to know each other, and crucially, eating. It was only several months in that our project became concrete, but when it did, many of the things we’d be talking about and playing with came together. In the process we used collage, blogging, writing and sending each other things in the post. Our working method was quite fluid but had agreed dates and times, which was a good way of working. Oh, and we did The Artist’s Way together, which was fantastic.

A: We both had already decided prior to working together to re-do the Artist Way so we did the 12 wk course alongside our work. We played with ideas, made mood boards, swapped images & ideas via our blog as Miriam was away living in Geneva for the majority of the project. Trips to numerous charity shops in search of initially inspiration but plates became our metaphor for each home we had each lived in.

Were there any creative ‘tensions’? How did you get over these?

A: Mmm…. maybe my lack of depth of knowledge of poetic form, although Miriam was an amazing guide and editor. Miriam’s inexperience of making art work for exhibition, but again this was balanced out by my skills, which hopefully supported her to learn new ideas around making an installation.

M: I think we had our moments – we’re both strong characters and especially towards the end there was a lot to get done. I get cranky when I haven’t eaten, so our habit of eating together was great. I don’t think there were big clashes in terms of ways of working or willingness to make creative changes. I felt I had a lot to learn from Anna, and she was very patient with me on the visual art side of things. We were open and honest with each other about our time, commitments and mood.

Did you work in a different way because of collaboration? If so, how?

A: I write more poetry. My method and design for making our books flows into my own style and aesthetic for my retreats

M: Yes. We both became writers and visual artists. I got to think of myself as an artist, not just a poet, and to expand the way I worked to include the visual. It was wonderfully freeing. I started sketching again and took photographs. When I moved to Geneva I was discovering a new place, and even from afar, Anna helped me to do that. Even better, she came to visit. Anna is also a coach and helped me become more confident about my work, and about presenting it.

What advice would you have for anyone else collaborating?

A: Be willing to open up who you are as Miriam & I at first didn’t expect to find the amazing similarities we did through our sharing.

Don’t assume your partner understands your form – you are the expert so share what you know in empowering ways.

Divide up work tasks in the run up to the show especially if  one or both of you is away.

M: Everyone works differently, but I’d say: Set times and dates at the outset to make things simple. Eat together. Challenge yourself to move into your collaborator’s discipline and invite them into yours. Go to events together. Go to charity shops. Go for walks. Send things in the post. Be open to expanding your process. Respect your collaborator’s time. Don’t get fixed on the idea of an end product too early on. Enjoy the process.

What you have both learnt from the collaboration?

A: Gosh so much…

M: Not to limit my artistic process (even if I don’t feel ‘good’ at what I’m trying). To trust the process. To play. To listen and find shared ground. It was a joy to work with Anna and we created work I never would have made alone.

…and how has this influenced future projects

A: Blimey! Again too many off shoots to describe – mostly the confidence to write whatever comes to mind

M: Creating collaboratively is now an important part of my work. I’ve moved into collaborative theatre and have worked with two companies making interdisciplinary theatre from scratch. I often think back on my collaboration with Anna – although I’m working with larger groups now, it’s a similar process, and I draw a lot from what I learned.

What are you working on at present?

A: A book of interviews about creativity and climate change, an Open To Create… ‘how to’ manual, running my own creative retreats, and co-curating Anxiety 2014 – an arts and mental health festival for London

M: I’m currently studying for a MFA (master of fine arts) in poetry and theatre at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. I’m working on a collection of poems and a collaborative theatre project combining poetry, dance and drama which will go up at the end of April.

If there is anything else that you would like to add?

A: Plan time to install and take down your work – P&P is a team effort which A&E give 110% to so it’s easy to think stuff like that is not your role too.

Join in wholeheartedly and your practice will change beyond you wildest imaginings

M: Just a huge thank you to Accident & Emergence and to Anna B. Sexton, for being such a wonderful partner in art, a continued supporter of my work, and a friend.

You can read more about Anna & Miriam’s collaboration on their blog – https://collaborarting.wordpress.com
To find out  more about Anna Sexton visit – http://annabsexton.wordpress.com/
To find out  more about Miriam Nash visit – http://miriamnash.com

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All Around Our Houses by Anna B. Sexton

Been doing some more writing for my book & work related courses & training programmes.

And in the process of doing so re-visited a book of poems I created back in May 2010 as part of a collaboration with poet, writer & performer; Miriam Nash

Follow this link to take a trip down my memory lanes through my poems dedicated to each house I have lived in since being born

http://bit.ly/zqR5Nw

A new poem is due for addition since moving back in the summer…watch this space

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Exhibition time!

Yes… the time is fast approaching. Put it in your diary, carve it into your desk, ice it onto your cupcakes:

The Gallery, Stoke Newington Library, Church Street, London N16

Saturdays 10am – 5pm  /  Sundays 1pm – 5pm  /  Weekdays 11am – 6pm

Private views & performances: April 30th & May 11th 6pm – 9pm

CLOSED 3rd & 4th May

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Catching up…

Anna and I have been quiet on the blog for a while, and guess why? Because we’ve been in Anna’s studio, working and playing away.

We’ve been scribbling…

Dancing…

Painting by me 🙂

Eating…

Hmmmm....

… and creating things which you can only have a preliminary, sideways peak at…

For more than that, you’ll have to come to our exhibition 🙂

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A doll’s leg sequence

A week or so ago, I went for a walk by Lake Geneva and found a stone beach with all kinds of driftwood, rubbish and objects washed up on it. A plastic doll’s leg caught my attention, lying just next to a soaked, black walking boot. On the rocks, someone had built a structure – like a bender – out of driftwood. It reminded me of dens I used to build as a child.

I kept thinking about the leg and wishing I had taken it. Anna had been finding objects relating to little girls and dolls, a hat, a mitten, toys like the maraca. On Thursday I went back to the beach and couldn’t see the leg. I was about to leave, but then I noticed it woven into the bender with a net. I untangled it and took it home. On the way, I met a whole doll – a blue one.

As soon as I got home, I sat down and wrote five freewrites, all around the plastic doll’s leg and the boot. I then wrote them into five first-draft poems. I’ve never had such an intense gust of writing – I felt almost unnerved.

Among the Driftwood

bottle tops and empty toothpaste tubes,
a doll’s pink leg, its severed plastic joint no longer joined,
pressed against dead leaves and stone. A baby’s arm away,
a man’s black walking boot, swollen with the weight of tide.
Both soles flex in one direction, as if two bodies lay there
side by side, a giant and a naked child, as mist rose off the lake
and passers-by breathed in the mountains tops and trees.
Somewhere a doll is crippled, a baby cries.
A black sole pins a child’s calf against cold kitchen tiles.
A man runs fingers up the inside of a plastic thigh.
Somewhere there are sirens, bags and tape.
Another broken toy, another beach, another leg.

Downstream

Perhaps they journeyed from the same house,
black Velcro bobbing against plastic,
pink toes brushing the imprints of the sole.
Near enough to hear each others’ thoughts,
to smell the seaweed tide that clung to them,
glimpse syringes and green bottles
washed up along their shore.
Perhaps a father snapped, and with a reflex
from his boyhood, snatched his daughter’s
favourite doll and ripped it, leg from socket,
flung it in the stream behind their home.
That night, she crept down to the back porch,
lifted her father’s walking boot with twig-thin arms
and carried it across the dark. The splash
made tiny spots appear along her spine.
The current dragged it out of sight.
Perhaps she smiled, knowing they’d rock up together
on some city beach, two punishments laid side by side.
Perhaps a string of other body parts would follow,
an arm, a plastic head. Perhaps one day the father,
swimming downstream to look for his girl.

Found

I found a pink doll’s leg bent at the knee
lying in a pile of leaves and plastic bags.
Just next to it, a walking boot
mimicking the angle of its pointed foot.
I thought of taking it, but didn’t want to touch
the tiny toes, the grooves of its open stump.
A week later, I returned and saw it hanging
from a driftwood house, a beam of severed limb
like the chicken legs that carry Baba Yaga’s hut.
I unwound it, held it in my hands.
I washed it in the bathroom sink
running my fingers over the curve of its calf.
It smelt of birds and compost. It tasted like skin.

The Missing Leg

The baby arrived in parts.
The head, patched with yellow gunk,
the scrunched red cheeks. The eyes
were frog eyes, leaping from the face.
Then came the neck and shoulders,
nothing pink about them.
The chest was buckled by the arms,
ten sticky fingers itched the air.
The bottom came, sunken
as cheeks with all the breath blown out.
One leg poked into sight, one tiny foot emerged,
toes parted like five perfect nipples held erect.
But on the other side, an absence.
A stump, like a knot of umbilical mass.
The missing leg filled up the room, like light
through the rose windows of a cathedral.

My Father’s Dolls

My father brought me dolls.
Babies with a hint of fat about their thighs,
barbies whose feet were shaped like heels,
wide Russian ladies to unpack.
I’d eye each new arrival, check her sockets,
run my fingers through her flimsy nylon hair.
My princesses knew the sound of scissors,
the tightening of rope against their powdered skin.
The more beautiful, the worse their torture;
eyelashes torn off, pearl toenails ripped.
In the water vat behind my father’s shed
I’d drown them, stain them to brunettes.
I’d leave a floating leg for him to find,
so he’d know his daughter wasn’t fooled.
I knew what happens to girls with pretty limbs
who hanker after gifts.

Working with Anna, I don’t feel as ‘in control’ of my writing as I usually do. This is a very good thing. I feel permission to play and to write beyond my comfort zone. Walking a lot helps too. I not only find objects that correlate with Anna’s, but I’ve discovered I have most of my ideas while walking. When I get back to London I plan to continue this, hopefully with Anna.

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A&E Pistols & Pollinators meeting 07.02.2010

I am back home having attended the next meeting in the process of the Pistols & Pollinators collaboration project created by Ellie Howitt and Anika Carpenter…

As Miriam was not able to attend being she is not part of the jetset international I could only do with taking an image of her to represent Miriam at the meeting…not half as much fun talking about our project with her there to say what she feels she is receiving from being in this process.

I took some pics in and around Columbia Road as part of my interest in what’s left behind, this time as the flower market was shutting up.

At the meeting there was talk of expansion of practice on  both sides for the artists and writers, tales of games, secrets, whispers of stories, synchroncity and even waking the dead…doll’s houses came up too.

The exhibition of the show will open Friday 30th April 2010 and run until 11th May 2010.

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Where it lived before

This is the object I posted Anna in its original habitat – on a stone wall:

I don't believe in time

Here’s the thought-poem I attached to it. Possibly not exactly the same as the one Anna received. I wrote several versions and kept a few:

I don’t believe in time

I smell of child’s fingers

I kill quietly,

breathe metal deeper than trees

I wish I could sleep

I wish I could sweat

Mine in the real face

the clocks are hiding

I crave a leather wrist

My bones have fallen

I crush the peddles

I am scratched

I am in love with the sea

I also made a list what the object could be or represent:

A portal to another world

An alien detector

A heavy wrist

A longed for toy

A punishment

A holder of secrets

A bribe

The top of a skyscraper

A dream selector

A grandfather child

A piece of drift

A time capsule

Indestructable

A gift, two times

A piece of hunger

I find writing these associative object pieces liberating. I also feel that Anna’s writing and photos are allowing my writing to loosen up and move towards new territory…

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